Sunday, March 28, 2010

Schwepped off Your Feet: Selling Tonic Water with a Love Story Gone Viral

Another class assignment, this time for Integrated Marketing Communications. Basically, the class is just Seth's version of account planning without the brevity. Anyway, the title of the post says it all. Check out (under the fold) the beautiful vid and read the brilliant words that follow.

Though the piece I will be referring to for the next few paragraphs is not a US-based advertisement, it does provide for a strong example of the direction in which branded entertainment is going. And how effective it can be. When I think of branded entertainment, I think of the old sponsorship days when the announcer yelled, “‘This Game Show’ brought to you by ‘This Conglomerate’.” Now, branded entertainment seems to be, “let’s let some really creative people (you know, not us) make something that will go viral (how hard can it be?) and stamp our name on it.” Seems lame, right? Well, in this example, Schweppes (part of Coca Cola) tried its best not to seem like the big, evil company making money off of someone else’s art.

In an effort to reposition itself as an adult beverage in New Zealand, Schweppes Euro created a Short Film Festival with the help of agency Publicis Mojo. Schweppes and the agency’s Creative Director basically said, “We’ll let you (i.e. pay you to) make a short film as long as it is adult orientated and has a ‘Schhh Moment.’” Maybe they were looking for some mature, black-and-white, sexual exploration piece to get big views (Though, let’s be honest, 12 and 13-year-old boys would be the ones watching over and over.) and sway alcohol purchasers to mix their drinks with Schweppes. What ended up going viral, though, was an 11-minute movie called, “Signs.” I didn’t watch it initially because I thought it might involve aliens, tin foil, and Joaquin Phoenix. When I did finally watch it, however, I witnessed a brilliant, if not a little slow-moving, execution of the silent film love story. With a “Schhh Moment.”

The film is basically silent, beginning with a male office drone’s boring life. But about three minutes in, he notices a pretty young woman working at a desk in a building across the street. They begin texting each other the old fashioned way: with dark markers and folder paper. There are moments of goofiness: the guy falling off his chair during a meeting or the guy showing her a financial report instead of an emoticon (read: a happy face drawn onto paper). Then he thinks she has disappeared because her desk is empty but it turns out she’s just been promoted. Finally, there’s a happy ending once the two leave their respective buildings and the crosswalk sign turns green.

As per my goofy title, you’ve probably guessed that the advertising is meant to appeal emotionally, in a kind of change-how-you-think-about-us way. The fact that the company told the artists to just include a “moment” of the product indicates that the integration had to seem seamless; all of the directors took the ‘moment’ part very literally and placed the mixers for a second or two at most. From an execution standpoint, the best way to describe the product integration would have to be ‘slice of life.’ In the film, our male protagonist at the height of his joy of meeting this girl (a little more than halfway through) sips on some Schweppes while gazing happily out at the city’s buildings.

Now, I would think that the company would push for the opening-the-carbonated-beverage sound that Schweppes (The name is basically onomatopoetic.) has some ownership of and execute a personality symbol. However, the company laid low and relied on the imagery and dramatization to tell the story. Hopefully, viewers either noticed (maybe subconsciously) the beverage or learned about Schweppes’ involvement and took the message to heart. The message: Schweppes is the punctuation mark on an important moment for adults. And don’t forget that you can use it as a mixer as well.

Watch all of the short films here.

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